New York: In a burst of enthusiasm that seemed ambiguous just weeks ago, customers braved huge lines outside Apple stores on Friday to get their hands on the new iPhones. The demand tilted toward the more expensive model, with the gold-coloured iPhone 5s a rage.
Brian Ceballo, a Brooklyn musician spent two weeks camped outside Apple's flagship Fifth Avenue store along with a crowd of tired, twenty-something loyalists to become the first New York owner of the new iPhone on Friday at 8 am.
"It feels pretty amazing," Ceballo, 19, told reporters after buying two phones — the limit for the new iPhone 5s and 5c. "It feels pretty awesome."
While people like Ceballo camped outside stores, Apple fanboys found creative ways of circumventing the queues by hiring line sitters on TaskRabbit, a website that enables people to hire others for small errands. There were reports of scuffles in some Apple outposts as store lines circled blocks.
The scarcity of the gold and silver iPhone 5s at stores and online on Friday has spawned the usual cottage industry on eBay, where the devices are fetching as much as $1,500 in auctions for the 32 GB version. Scalpers who managed to get hold of unlocked 64 GB gold iPhone 5s models in Apple stores for about $850 re-sold them on eBay, pocketing bids ranging from $2,300 to $3,000.
Demand for the gold iPhone 5s has been so great, it took just 30 minutes for the delivery time to slip until October at the earliest for those ordering online. By Friday 10 am all three versions of the iPhone 5s were delayed for shipment until next month.
"Gold is a colour that is always in demand, whether for jewelry, watches or fashion," Massimiliano Pogliani, CEO of luxury phone company Vertu told CNN. He predicted the gold iPhone 5s would do well in Asia, especially China and India.
It's not clear whether any confused buyers think the iPhone 5s actually comes in real gold instead of its gold-colored aluminum. Wealthy Apple fans can actually buy an 18k gold-plated iPhone 5 from luxury retailer Stuart Hughes for about $35,000, reported CNN.
The iPhone 5s which features an upgraded camera, faster processor and a new fingerprint sensor for improved security went on sale Friday in 11 countries along with the iPhone 5c, a cheaper, plastic-encased model that comes in five bright colors.
It will probably take over four months for the new iPhones to reach India. Apple still hasn’t announced the next set of countries to get the 5c and 5s but India is unlikely to catch the second phase of the iPhone rollout.
Apple has asked its suppliers to increase production of the gold-coloured iPhone 5s by an additional one-third after seeing strong demand, people familiar with the situation told The Wall Street Journal.
"This iPhone is a category killer!" Todd Schoenberger, an Apple shareholder and managing partner at LandColt Capital, told Yahoo! Finance.
"It's setting the tone for mobile commerce. You're going to be able to go to your fancy phone and buy whatever you want with your fingerprint."
Sales are expected to be pretty solid this weekend. Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, said in a note to investors that he sees Apple selling as many as 6 million units over the weekend, soaring past Apple's 2012 record of 5 million units sold.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo expects Apple to produce 5.2 million units of the iPhone 5S and nearly 8.5 million units of the iPhone 5c during this launch quarter. But by the end of December, he predicts Apple will ship 28 million units of the iPhone 5s and 18.7 million units of the iPhone 5c.
However, some analysts believe the iPhone 5s will have strapped supplies during its launch, particularly because they believe the fingerprint sensor is harder to manufacture efficiently.
Tech news site AllThingsD reported that one US network said it had a “grotesquely unavailable inventory” ahead of launch day. Things weren't looking much better in Britain, where telecom networks told the BBC there was a severe shortage of the iPhone 5s.